The Sanja Matsuri, a symbolic festival of Tokyo, is one of the largest festivals of mikoshi (portable shrines) held in Asakusa district, which is a quarter where you can still find traditional houses and streets. Every year, hundreds of thousands of spectators visit Asakusa during the three festival days. Sanja Matsuri is held on the
third weekend of every May at Asakusa Shrine.
Interesting Features of Sanja Matsuri Festival
- This festival considered one of the wildest and largest. The festival is held in honor of Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari, and Hajino Nakatomo, the three founders of Sensoji Temple, who are enshrined in Asakusa Shrine next door to the temple.
- The Sanja Matsuri features about one hundred portable shrines (mikoshi) in which Shinto deities (kami) are symbolically placed into and paraded about the streets to bring good fortune to the local businesses and residents.
- With amazing vigor, men carry several dozens of portable shrines on their shoulders. There are also portable shrines carried by women only, and by children only. The most exciting moments are when the portable shrines are jolted vehemently, for this jolting is believed to intensify the power of the deities mounted on the portable shrines.
- Other than the portable shrines, the parade which starts at 1 o’clock in the afternoon of Friday is really worth seeing. Floats which carry musicians playing flutes and beating drums, people dressed as traditional artisans and dancers performing traditional dance all parade down Yanagi-dori to Asakusa Shrine. When the troupe arrives at the shrine, you can see the performance of a dance called Binzasara Mai.
- Saturday features the neighborhood mikoshi, nearly 100 of them from the district’s 44 neighborhoods, which are brought out around noon and carried to Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine to be blessed before they are carried back to be paraded around their neighborhoods to spread luck and prosperity.
- The events of Sunday, the final day of the festival, begin at 6:00 AM when hundreds of revelers, grouped by their neighborhoods and wearing matching festival garbs, gather at Asakusa Shrine and vie to carry one of the three large main mikoshi (portable shrines). The groups are very competitive as they jostle to carry the mikoshi. Consequently, spectators are not allowed beyond Sensoji’s entrance gates during this part of the festival due to space and safety concerns.
- After about two hours the mikoshi head off in different directions to be paraded through the district. By the end of the evening, they will have visited all of the streets, shopping arcades and neighborhoods of Asakusa before returning to Asakusa Shrine.
How to Access There
The Sanja Matsuri takes place on and around the grounds of Sensoji Temple a few steps from Asakusa Station, which is served by the Ginza Subway Line, Asakusa Subway Line and Tobu Railways. From Tokyo Station, ake the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station (2 minutes, 140 yen) and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line for Asakusa.From Shinjuku Station, Take the orange JR Chuo Line to Kanda Station (10 minutes, 170 yen) and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line for Asakusa.
If you are planning a Travel to Japan, then plan your trip in the month of May to enjoy this beautiful festival of there.